[On] upholding veg[etaria]nism, [as a] warning, [your] mind [must be] very true [and] sincere.
[Note 1: ‘持斋’ can also refer to upholding of the Eight Precepts (八关斋戒), along with veg(etaria)nism (吃素). However, this following admonition also applies to all other spiritual practices expressedly committed to.]
[This] only needs [you to have your] feet [to] step [upon] actual ground, [with] utmost efforts going [forth to] do [it].
[Note 2: This refers to having down-to-earth and true practice.]
Otherwise, [this] then becomes [the] false speech amongst false speech.
[Note 3: This is so as commitment to spiritual practice is the greatest form of commitment, being for the welfare of all sentient beings.]
Knowing this [is] not difficult. Practising this [is] difficult.
[Note 4: For the practice of veg(etaria)nism, it will be less challenging if compassion for suffering animals is focused upon, instead of greed for the taste of their flesh and produce. For the Pure Land path, it is already the Easy Practice Path (易行道), but for those lacking diligence in learning and practice, it is to that extent still somewhat ‘difficult’.]
[This] world [has] so many ‘clever’ people, all only with speaking, [but] not [with] practising, [then] finishing this one life.
[Note 5: It is easy for the ‘intelligent’ to know and talk theory a lot, without adequate wholehearted practice, before time runs out… again. They are to that extent not wise, even if ‘smart’. While learning without practice is inadequate learning, learning should never be equated to practice.]
[In] vain entering [a] treasure mountain, [but with] empty hands then returning.
[Note 6: This is the ‘mountain’ with many precious theoretical teachings amassed from, yet with none really practised, thus not really ‘owning’ any of them, and not able to use them when it is time to depart from this life.]
[This is] grievously regrettable, grievously regrettable!
[Note 7: This is grievously regrettable for two reasons. First, this life, with no genuine progress via practice towards liberation, is wasted. Second, in the next life, if not reaching Pure Land, all learnt in this life will be forgotten. If also with no genuine progress in this next life, it will be wasted too.]
Pure Land Tradition’s 13 Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng
(Fourth Reply Letter [To] Layperson Gāo Shàolín)
Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an